WHEN your advertising slogan becomes part of the Australian vernacular, you know you've struck gold.
Boasting the best advertising campaign in the business, the "I bought a Jeep" catch cry has been a boon for the brand.
But the success has had its downside. Jeep has been targeted in a few high-profile campaigns as well as management issues that are currently being played out in the courts, which collectively have hit the brand hard in the sales race.
The Grand Cherokee has been one of the success stories for the marque Down Under. Boasting an impressive features list and a strong drivetrain options.
Leading the way is the diesel engine derivative, and even in this entry-level Laredo specification presents as impressive value for money for those wanting off-road prowess without forgoing life's luxuries.
Jeep has done an impressive job with the cabin which is functional and modern.
The central touch-screen is easy to operate with menu shortcuts at the bottom of the monitor. With a combination of analogue and digital displays the driver has a crisp and clear instruments cluster.
Two colour schemes are available, black and a beige with a walnut brown finish. Both have elements of class with limited use of hard plastics.
Being the base model, the Loredo has hard-wearing cloth trim with soft and supportive seats.
There is ample space for five adults, and there is even reasonable legroom for the passenger who gets the centre back seat.
On the road
Built on the foundations of traversing the tough stuff, Jeep has forged a robust reputation. While not as capable as the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee can certainly hold its own when tackling challenging terrain.
Yet this big SUV manages the task with greater levels of comfort.
Sharing its platform with the now replaced Mercedes-Benz ML Class, the ride is quiet and comfortable.
This 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel is the pick of the powerplant options for those looking to haul caravans and boats, offering burly power and an ability to pull up to 3500kg (braked).
Cruising along the highway at 100kmh below 1500rpm it makes easy work of long journeys.
Yet with a two-speed transfer case and hill descent control you can also be confident when stepping off the bitumen. A console dial enables you to choose between terrain options, such as rock, snow and mud, providing the best traction for the conditions.
There is a fair amount of roll in the corners and the ride is typically American soft, although you can't have an the ground clearance required for an off-roader as well as an ability to corner like a sports car.
The steering can feel lifeless on occasions, although it is surprisingly easy to park and navigate through the urban jungle.
What do you get?
Among the basics kit are 18-inch alloys, 12.7cm touch-screen with voice command, full Bluetooth connectivity, 17.7cm colour instrument display, eight-way powered and heated front seats, push-button start with keyless entry, dual zone climate controlled air con and steering wheel mounted paddles.
Safety is five-star, with front and rear parking sensors, reverse parking camera, stability control, trailer sway damping, seven airbags and Selec-Terrain which enables you to match conditions to the driving set-up.
Leading the charge in this off-road capable segment is the Toyota Prado GXL ($59,990), as well as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS ($58,990) and the Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 HSE ($69,000).
Improved access and cheaper parts are firmed only the company's agenda, which is aiming to implement capped price servicing in the near future.
There shouldn't be any dramas in the fuel economy realm, as our test returned about 8.7 litres for every 100km. With a 93-litre tank, it should be more than 100km before return trips to the servo.
With 782 litres of boot space, the Grand Cherokee can handle a fair bit of gear. It's also armed with a full-size spare, useful shopping back hooks.
The rear seats fold 60-40 to provide a larger load space, although they drop via handles on the side - levers in the boot would be useful.
Up front and there is a handy nook for phones and MP3 players close to the USB slot, SD card and auxiliary jack. You also get a centre console, where the 12-volt plug is located, but much of the storage space is taken by the CD player. Dual cup holders are positioned front and back along with bottle holders in each door.
Funky factor Well proportioned, the Grand Cherokee has broad lines and boasts ample toughness which wears the trademark grille proudly.
Jeep is getting serious about dealing with past customer issues. Dealer coaching starts in earnest next year, improved access to parts is underway, and they also brought in experienced aftersales director Stephane Lamari who has worked with a range of brands in Europe and South Africa, including Renault.
Without doubt Jeep has the basis for a strong product. The Grand Cherokee is comfortable on-road and capable off it, with the strong diesel combined with an impressive features list.
Buyers can be confident of a changing culture within, which is peace of mind behind a product offering solid value for money.
What matters most
What we liked: Easy to drive for a large SUV, good features list, off-road prowess.
What's we'd like to see: Levers in the boot to fold seats, electric park brake rather than foot-operation, seven-seat option.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year 100,000km warranty. Servicing schedules are annual or every 20,000km.
Model: Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo.
Details: Five-door five-seat large four-wheel drive.
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel generating maximum power of 184 kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 570 Nm @ 2000 rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.5 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $59,000.
Driving experience: 16/20
Features and equipment: 18/20
Functionality and comfort: 16/20
Value for money: 16/20
Style and design: 15/20
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